As Buddha’s birthday approaches, Hong Kong netizens have uploaded zany designs for a theme park to commemorate the event.
Called Buddhaland Hong Kong, the theme park features rides, fireworks and other attractions similar to those found in Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
It was meant to be a hilarious parody, but Disney didn’t find it amusing.
Internet media company Meme.hk reported the news on its website last week. On Tuesday, it received a letter from Disney Enterprises, demanding that the news as well as all related text and images be removed from its website as they constitute copyright infringement.
The Buddhaland idea was born in Hong Kong Golden Forum—a local internet platform popular among computer geeks and ordinary citizens.
Last month, a Golden Forum regular called for ideas to boost local tourism in a discussion thread.
Someone then suggested that Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island be turned into a Buddha-themed amusement park. The thread went viral.
Netizens contributed all sorts of features that will make up Buddhaland, all of which are based on the various activities and rides at Disneyland.
Disneyland’s parade, for example, becomes a procession of Shaolin Temple’s 18 Bronzemen, Donald Monk and bald-headed princesses.
Space Mountain becomes the Five Finger Mountain, which Buddha once used to imprison the monkey king Sun Wukong. The teacups ride is replaced by Karma teacups ride.
Within a few days, the Golden Forum’s collective ideas for Buddhaland were transformed into a map and an advertisement.
Netizens also created a special webpage for Buddhaland, showing all the attractions and entertainment activities at the imaginary park.
Many people found the parody funny and highly creative; no one ever thought the exercise would be considered as harming the Disney brand.
In fact, Disney Enterprises’ threat to sue Meme.hk for reporting the news has stirred fresh debate on whether derivative work infringes copyright.
Under the Hong Kong copyright law, news reporting may be exempted from the law as long as “fair dealing” is exercised.
One of the guidelines under the “fair dealing” principle is whether “the dealing is for a non-profit-making purpose or whether the dealing is of a commercial nature”.
In Meme.hk’s case, it is obvious that it is a profit-making organization, which puts the group in a vulnerable position, said Choy Ki, legal adviser at the Copyrights & Derivative Works Alliance.
Parody, satire, caricature, pastiche and similar works are not excluded from the local copyright law at the moment.
Netizens who designed Buddhaland and uploaded the images on the internet may have infringed the Disney copyright as they have incorporated Disney materials in their work, according to Choy.
So when Meme.hk used these parodies for news reporting, it may have violated the law, he said.
He also believes that Disney Enterprises made a smart move by targeting the platform used to publish the derivative works, instead of focusing on the creators of the images.
If Disney targets the authors of the parodies, it will run the risk of incurring the ire of the public, who naturally sympathize with fellow netizens, Choy said.
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